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article imageGun control: Federal court guts California concealed carry rules

By Brett Wilkins     Feb 13, 2014 in Politics
San Francisco - A federal appeals court struck down California rules requiring citizens who wish to obtain concealed carry handgun permits to prove they have "good cause" to do so.
The San Jose Mercury News reports the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 2-1 that San Diego County is in violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms by requiring residents to show "good cause" when applying for concealed carry permits.
A federal district judge had previously affirmed the San Diego Sheriff's Department's rules requiring concealed carry applicants to provide documented proof, such as restraining orders or letters from law enforcement or legal authorities, of a special need for self-protection. In addition to proving "good cause," state law also requires applicants to show they are of good moral character. The permit process is decided at the county and municipal level.
But the 9th Circuit Court overturned the federal judge's ruling, declaring that San Diego County's policy "impermissibly infringes upon the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense."
"The right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense," said Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain in the majority opinion.
O'Scannlain said the right to bear arms extends outside the home. He raised the prospect of "a woman toting a small handgun in her purse as she walks through a dangerous neighborhood, or a night shift worker carrying a handgun in his coat as he travels to and from his job site."
If this ruling stands, it will require local governments to issue permits to anyone who claims they need to carry a concealed weapon for self-defense purposes.
Judge O'Scannlain said he did not agree with federal appeals courts that have upheld similar restrictions on concealed carry permits in New York, New Jersey and Maryland. He voiced his approval of an appeals court that struck down a blanket ban on concealed handguns in Illinois in 2012.
O'Scannlain was joined by conservative Judge Connie Callahan in the majority. Liberal Judge Sidney Thomas dissented.
"Courts and state legislatures have long recognized the danger to public safety of allowing unregulated, concealed weapons to be carried in public," said Thomas, who argued that San Diego's current rules allow for a "reasonable balance between individuals' interest in self-defense and the public's interest in limiting the proliferation of handguns in public spaces."
California is notorious among gun rights advocates for having some of the strictest-- and many say unconstitutional-- firearms laws in the nation. The Golden State is one of only eight that gives local governments the power to approve or deny concealed carry permits.
San Diego is far from the only California county or municipality to severely restrict who may obtain concealed carry permits. Los Angeles and San Francisco have infamously strict rules. In Alameda County, which includes crime-plagued Oakland, applicants must demonstrate "a documented, presently existing, clear and present danger to life, or great bodily harm" to themselves or their immediate family.
Second Amendment and concealed carry advocates applauded the ruling from what is often considered the most liberal federal appeals court in the nation.
"California will now join the vast majority of states that now issue permits to people for self-defense," Chuck Michel, an attorney for the California Rifle and Pistol Association, told the Mercury News.
San Jose resident Tom Scocca told the Mercury News the ruling had him "checking the calendar to see if it was April Fool's Day" because "no one really expected an opinion of that type out of the 9th Circuit."
"It's very clear that the Second Amendment right to bear arms in this state is a valid right under the US Constitution," said Scocca, who was turned down for a concealed carry permit in 2008 for failure to show "good cause." "And an individual sheriff's ability to restrict that with a nebulous 'good cause' requirement is not lawful."
But Martin Mayer, an attorney representing statewide law enforcement organizations, agreed with Judge Thomas' dissent, claiming the ruling would indeed lead to a proliferation of handguns on California's streets.
"The majority of peace officers killed in the line of duty are killed by guns," Mayer told the San Francisco Chronicle. "If you have a domestic violence incident and a gun is available, it's more likely to be used... It increases the harm to law enforcement and to the public."
San Diego Deputy Counsel James Chapin said he will ask the full 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court to rehear the case. Thursday's ruling is on hold pending the outcome of Chapin's request.
More about Gun control, california concealed carry, 9th circuit court of appeals, Second amendment, san diego concealed carry
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